Lil Nas satanic panic disrupts the Minnesota launch of a children's storybook


Sheletta Brundidge was on national television Friday, talking about her new children's book.

That same day, Lil Nas X, the singer she'd dedicated the book to, gave Satan a lap dance.

By the end of the weekend, Lil Nas X was in a feud with the governor of South Dakota. He was selling 666 pairs of devil-themed sneakers, infused with human blood. He was offering pole dancing tips from his "Montero" video on Twitter.

It was great for music sales. Less great for sales of an uplifting, wholesome children's storybook about how one of Lil Nas X's earlier hits helped a little boy with autism in Minnesota.

"Daniel Finds His Voice" had surged to the top of the Amazon's bestseller list for children's books about disabilities after Brundidge spent part of the morning chatting about it with Gail King and the hosts of "CBS This Morning."

"We were over here popping champagne and thanking Jesus and riding high," she said with a laugh.

Then on Saturday, her daughter Cameron handed her an iPad and asked if she could watch the brand-new Lil Nas X video.

Cameron did not get to watch that video.

Soon, concerned parents started reaching out, wondering if this was the sort of book they wanted their children to read.

" 'Did you see Lil Nas X pole dancing with the devil? I know you're a Christian,' " they told her. "I told them, 'Yes I am. I did not know he was pole dancing with the devil. I found out like you did.' "

Book sales dropped. A venue she'd booked in January so she could give away hundreds of copies of the book canceled abruptly: "Due to COVID protocols, we're not going to be able to provide you with the support you need."

But this was never a book about Lil Nas X.

This was the story of Daniel Brundidge.

You may remember him from the video two years ago. The tiny boy crooning the cowboy song.

Wholesome, heartwarming, but nothing remarkable — until you found out that he was stringing more words together in every verse than he'd spoken in his entire life.

"I look out the window and sing my favorite song," Daniel explains in one of the first pages in his book. "I have autism and I like to sing better than I like to talk."

At age 4 he was lost inside himself. Silent, unresponsive, unable to feed or dress himself.

Three of the four Brundidge children have autism, but Daniel, the youngest, was the only one who didn't respond to any of the therapies that had helped his older siblings. The therapists were ready to give up, unwilling to keep billing insurance for sessions that didn't seem to help.

Until music — and the catchiest earworm of 2019 — got through to Daniel. Two years after he walked up to his mother, singing "Old Town Road," 6-year-old Daniel is reading at a fourth-grade level, doing math at a second-grade level and talking a blue streak.

Daniel, she said, is her walking miracle.

"This isn't about book sales," said Brundidge, who gave away more copies of her first book, "Cameron Goes to School," than she sold. "We want to offer hope to parents who have special-need kids. I would never have thought music was the way to reach my child. There may be a parent out there whose child isn't talking who hasn't tried music" therapy.

The only mention of Lil Nas X in the book is on the dedication page: "Very special thanks to Lil Nas X for creating our favorite song and helping Daniel find his voice."

She meant every word and she has no plan to change that dedication page. The 21-year-old musician is part of her family's story now, she said.

Little Nas X opened the world for Daniel.

She just hopes schools and parents and Sunday school libraries will be open for Daniel's book.

"Daniel Finds His Voice" tells the story of a little boy with autism, singing his way through a family road trip. It goes on sale April 6.